The Anna Maria Island Sun Newspaper

Vol. 14 No. 6 - December 4, 2013


Night of lights
Carol Whitmore


The roundabout resembles an electric fountain.

BRADENTON BEACH – Bridge Street was awash with color, colorful characters and holiday spirit during Saturday night’s inaugural Lighting of Bridge Street tree lighting ceremony and community celebration. Presented by the Bridge Street Merchants and taking place in the vacant lot next to The Fish Hole miniature golf facility, the grassy area used for the weekly Bridge Street Market was transformed into a tropical winter wonderland.

The event featured live music by Kyle Shell and Ted Stevens and the Doo-Shots, and a wide variety of local vendors offering food, drink, folk art, photography, clothing, jewelry, Christmas gifts, massages and more.

Gayden Shell, owner of the nearby clothing store, The Lot, said business was good and noted that she was running out of her homemade Christmas ornaments. “I wish I could run home and make more,” she said, while standing in front of the small Airstream trailer she calls Buttercup.

At 6:30 p.m., Mayor Bill Shearon threw the switch that brought to life the 15- foot Douglas fir Christmas tree imported from North Carolina, and decorated by Deb Myers, owner of Bridge Street Interiors.

“It’s really great because this is the first lighting of the tree, and I’m proud to be a part of it,” Shearon said.

“It’s just amazing how Bridge Street has changed with the Bridge Street Merchants, all the activity and the new lights around the buildings. It’s really impressive.”

Bradenton Beach Commissioner Janie Robertson said, “We have the prettiest tree on the Island. They’re really on a good roll here with the lights, and it’s packed. I’m thrilled for the merchants because the more action you have, the more people it attracts.”

Myers’ tree design features 1,500 light bulbs, more than 800 ribbons and a four-foot angel perched on top.

“I’ve wanted to do this for 12 years, and we finally did it,” she said of collaborative efforts made by the Bridge Street business owners in lighting and decorating Bridge Street from the traffic circle to the east end of the street, including 31 illuminated palm trees and light poles that resemble candy canes.

Serving as a preview of things to come, the Gulf Drive traffic circle decorations were activated Tuesday evening.

“People were slowing down their cars to take pictures of it,” said Island Time Bar & Grill co-owner Bill Herlihy, who serves as vice-president of the Bridge Street Merchants group.

He credited BridgeWalk co-owner and general manager Angela Rodocker as being the impetus for this year’s elaborate holiday display.

“She’s been dreaming about this for years, and this is something she’s wanted to do for a long time,” Herlihy said of her vision for a uniform holiday presentation along Bridge Street.

“It’s an awesome idea and we’ve been raising money and planning this since last year,” Herlihy added.

The Bridge Street Merchants group spent $25,000 on decorations purchased from the Pompano-based Christmas Designers Inc. firm. Each business owner purchased his/her own lights, and the merchants group contributed money raised during previous events to help pay for the traffic circle and other decorations not specific to an individual business.

Donations from local business owners provided additional financial support, and Herlihy and his business partner John Hardesty donated $2,000 toward the purchase and decoration of the public Christmas tree that will remain on display throughout the holidays.

The holiday display is part of the continued efforts to promote the wide variety of dining, entertainment, shopping and recreational activities offered on Bridge Street.

“Boy, they really dressed the place up,” said Bradenton Beach resident Jim Peterfeso as he admired the new holiday look.

Manatee County Commissioner John Chappie, a Bradenton Beach resident, said, “The merchants along the street have really taken this and run with it. It’s obvious by the number of people you’re seeing on the street that this is a great thing for Bradenton Beach. I remember years ago when there was nothing out here but asphalt from one side to the other. With all the work this community has done and with the merchants we have on Bridge Street, this has become a great destination for people to come and enjoy a beach community as it should be.”

Melissa Enders helped plan and coordinate Saturday’s tree lighting ceremony. She also helped decorate the light poles. She said the event and the decorating process required a lot of hard work, but in the end, it was well worth it.

The holiday fun continues on Saturday Dec. 14, with Christmas on Bridge Street taking place from 3 to 10 p.m. and featuring a boat parade, holiday bazaar, raffles, snow, Santa, holiday music, special sales, food and a full bar.


Woman convicted of injuring Island officer

A North Carolina woman has been convicted of grand theft auto, fleeing to elude an officer, driving with a suspended license and reckless driving causing serious injuries to an officer.

Jennifer Varner, 25, who faces up to three years in prison, was arrested March 4, two days after police from Holmes Beach, Bradenton Beach and Manatee County Sheriff’s Office deputies had boxed her in at the Island Shopping Center. She slipped past, and when she saw Bradenton Beach Officer Eric Hill coming toward her, she intentionally aimed the stolen car she was driving into Hill’s Ford Explorer patrol car.

The force of the accident shattered Hill’s femur and broke his knee. Doctors put a metal rod in his leg, and he was put on medical leave for several months while he recovered. He is currently on the duty roster and back at his job.

Varner will be sentenced on Feb. 6 at 1:30 p.m.

Varner pleaded innocent by reason of insanity because of post-traumatic stress stemming from a 2003 incident where she was the only survivor of a drug deal shooting that took the lives of three people. She was shot twice and stabbed 22 times in that incident and recovered. Hill said earlier she apparently tied that incident with the sight of Hill’s car coming toward her during her attempt to flee.

“I’m glad the jury concluded she was responsible for her actions,” Hill said after the trial. “I feel justice was served.”

The incident occurred when police spotted a stolen car from North Carolina with Varner at the wheel. They gave chase, and when they tried to block her escape, she nearly ran down two officers as she drove past the vehicles.

Varner remains in custody at the Manatee County jail because she still has a warrant for outstanding charges in North Carolina.

An old-fashioned celebration
Anna Maria Island Sun News Story

file photo

Kids play in the "snow" at Island Sun Plaza
during last year's Holiday of Treasures.


ANNA MARIA – The annual Anna Maria Holiday of Treasures is reminiscent of olden days when people could walk the streets at night without worry.

One might compare it to Bedford Falls, the town in the 1946 movie “It’s a Wonderful Life,” without the snow, where people gathered together to celebrate the season and the holiday was about friends, family and community.

This year’s Holiday of Treasures will be held on Friday, Dec. 13, from 5:30 to 8:30 p.m., and the action will be on the streets and in the shops. Anna Maria offers a lineup of businesses and shops along Gulf Drive and Pine Avenue where unique items are offered.

Stroll through the village atmosphere of Anna Maria and enjoy snacks and treats offered by the stores. Play bingo for prizes and vote for your favorite holiday decorations.

The Roser Children’s Choir will perform Christmas favorites in the Anna Maria Historical Park at 6 p.m. Bring the kids to Island Sun Plaza to talk with Santa Claus and play in the snow. Win a limited edition Celebrate Anna Maria Style T-shirt.

The businesses along the route vary from restaurants to gift shops along Gulf Drive along with old-fashioned stores with big front porches along Pine Avenue.

It’s a fun night for all offering the best of Anna Maria in the manner of Bedford Falls. Come on out to find out why “It’s a Wonderful Life” on Anna Maria Island.


AMICCO set for new season

File photo

AMICCO will present four concerts this season,
beginning in December, and all are at CrossPointe
Fellowship in Holmes Beach.



The Anna Maria Island Concert Chorus and Orchestra (AMICCO) is preparing for its 21st season with four concerts from December through April. Each concert starts at 2 p.m. and is held at CrossPointe Fellowship Church, 8605 Gulf Drive, Holmes Beach. This year, it will play a January concert instead of a November one.

The first concert is Dec. 15, and it has a holiday theme, as always. The music features Heinrich Schutz, “Historia der Geburt Jesu Christ,” (the story of the Nativity) and AMICCO’s time-honored tradition again brings George Frideric Handel’s Christmas portion of “Messiah,” for the holiday season.

Their annual youth competition winner’s performance is always popular, and this year it presents 2013 AMICCO Young Solo Artists Competition Winner, Raine Sagramsingh, trumpet, performing Haydn’s “Concerto in E-flat.”

On Jan. 26, it presents Johann Sebastian Bach’s Cantata #140, Wachet Auf “Sleepers Awake,” and Bach’s Concerto for 2 Violins also known as the Double Violin Concerto, perhaps one of the most famous works by Bach and considered among the best examples of the work of the late Baroque period. Antonio Vivaldi’s most familiar and popular piece of sacred music, “Gloria,” completes this program.

AMICCO once more brings Opera to Anna Maria Island with its Feb. 23, 2014, performance of the most-performed opera worldwide, Giuseppe Verdi’s “La Traviata.”

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart’s Symphony #6, described by the composer as "more the expression of feeling than painting" and excerpts from Joseph Haydn’s “Creation,” considered to be Haydn’s masterpiece, depicting and celebrating the creation of the world, will be performed March 23. Join the chorus and orchestra for this season and experience Maestro Gershfeld’s interpretation of these symphonic pieces as he ushers AMICCO into its third decade.

The orchestra and chorus depends on gifts from donors, sponsors and on paid advertisements in the concert programs. Anyone wishing to make donations to the orchestra should mail their tax-deductible check made out to AMICCO to the Anna Maria Island Concert Chorus and Orchestra, P.O. Box 1213, Holmes Beach, FL 34218-1213. If you are interested in advertising in the concert programs, contact Nancy Ambrose at 941-799-2181 or 941-518-4431.

Tickets are $25 per person with season subscriptions for four concerts only $80. You can order tickets online at or by calling 941-795-2370.

Fundraising underway for dog park improvements


Rex Hagen has pledged to match up to $4,000 for the
construction of a shade building in the small dog park at
the top end of the area marked in blue.



HOLMES BEACH – Dog enthusiast Barbara Parkman is spearheading the efforts to raise the money needed to build a shade structure in the small dog area of the city-owned Holmes Beach dog park.

According to Parkman, local philanthropist Rex Hagen has pledged to match up to $4,000 any money raised for the construction of a new shade building.

Mayor Carmel Monti said he did not know the exact cost of the shade structure built in the large dog area, but said trolley stands cost the city between $7,000 and $10,000 each. He suggested that a similar design might work well in the small dog area, where space is limited.

The mayor said he welcomes the fundraising activities and remains open-minded to suggestions pertaining to the final form of the desired shade structure.

Parkman favors an open-air shade building similar to but smaller than the one in the large dog area. She does not support the sailcloth shade alternative suggested by the Parks and Beautification Advisory Board and said recently that the trolley stand idea does not go quite far enough in regard to providing shade.

As of Friday, Nov. 29, the dog park activists group had raised $825. Checks given to Parkman, and made out to the city of Holmes Beach, were to be turned over to the city on Monday. Parkman is tracking the funds that Hagen has offered to match and has a petition containing the signatures of 39 dog park users who support the need for a permanent shade building.

Parkman said Hagen has already contacted an architect to gauge the size of structure needed and is awaiting an estimate from a builder on a shelter design that incorporates three benches and is located along the west fence for optimum shade purposes.

If need be, Parkman said she would approach some Island business owners and realtors because some of them are now listing the dog park as an amenity in their attempts to attract clients.

“And, there's always the possibility of some kind soul making a large donation,” Parkman added.

According to Parkman, resident Susan Fedewa typed a letter to the mayor, making a formal request for the permanent shelter. Those interested in donating and joining the cause can contact Parkman at 941-778-3390.

When asked if the money would be refunded if the project is not completed, the optimistic Parkman said, “With Rex in the mix, we don’t even entertain that idea. We will have a permanent building!”

Commission to hear noise ordinance

BBRADENTON BEACH – The long-awaited proposed revision to the city’s noise ordinance is expected to be heard by the city commission on Thursday, Dec. 5, at 7 p.m. at city hall.

The ordinance is written so that police or code enforcement officers can use a sound level meter to objectively rate whether noises violate the ordinance, using decibel standards ranging from 55 to 95 dbA depending on activity, location and time of day.

Fines would be $150 for the first offense and $300 for repeat offenses.

The proposed ordinance targets “unusually loud, raucous, or excessive noise constituting a public disturbance or nuisance,” including fireworks, amplified music, construction, vehicle back-up beepers and yelling.

The ordinance would make property managers responsible for noise violations, with violators including the owner of the property, the person in charge of the property, such as a tenant, occupant or property manager, or the person actually causing the violation.

Commercial areas would include rentals, and a new classification has been added, multi-family dwelling, defined as “A building or other shelter which has been divided into three or more separate dwelling units, including, but not limited to, apartments, triplexes and condominiums.”

Parades, concerts, rallies, demonstrations, pageants, fireworks and other special events would be exempt from the noise ordinance with the City Commission’s approval. Also exempt are ceremonial or traditional activities or events, including church bells and the “normal sounds of organized sporting and cultural events,” between 7 a.m. and 11 p.m., specifically not including music or other amplified sounds performed or played at volume levels that violate the ordinance.

Property owners or operators of retail establishments would be required to establish an interior 15-foot setback for sound amplifiers and speakers under the ordinance.

Construction and lawn care would be allowed from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday through Saturday, not including holidays.

Noise is defined as “any sound which annoys or disturbs humans, or which causes or tends to cause an adverse psychological or physiological effect on humans, including low frequency vibrations such as caused by amplification of bass instrument sounds.”

Noise disturbance is defined as “sound that is or may be harmful or injurious to the health or welfare of a reasonable person with normal sensitivities, or is unreasonable or disturbing because it interferes with the enjoyment or normal conduct of life, property or outdoor recreation or is loud and raucous due to its volume, character, duration, time of occurrence or the number of persons affected.”

Noise pollution is defined as “the presence of noise in excessive or unnecessary amount, or of such duration, wave frequency, or intensity as to be injurious to human life or property, or which unreasonably interferes with the comfortable enjoyment or normal activities of life, property, or other conduct of business.”

Public nuisance is defined as one which “tends to annoy the community or injure the health of the citizens in general, or annoys and disturbs one in possession of his property, rendering its ordinary use or occupation physically uncomfortable or gives offense to the senses and obstructs the reasonable and comfortable use of property or anything that essentially interferes with the enjoyment of life or property.”

Congestion proposal headed to commission

HOLMES BEACH – Having spent the past four months brainstorming potential solutions to parking and congestion issues, the volunteer Island Congestion Committee concluded its Monday, Nov. 25, meeting with a proposal in place to submit to city commissioners for consideration and potential implementation in early 2014.

The committee is chaired by Carol Soustek, with primary input coming from committee members Bob Johnson and Pam Leckie, Mayor Carmel Monti and Police Chief Bill Tokajer. Additional input was provided by committee member Terry Davison, former committee member Peggi Davenport, trolley driver Andy Sheridan, representatives and AMI Radio ownership.

Insight was also garnered from concerned citizens and elected officials from Holmes Beach and Manatee County.

These combined efforts led to the formulation of an eight-page letter of recommendation that calls for the implementation of a Beach Parking Overflow Site Parking Program. The committee recommends that the mayor and City Commission approve the proposed program scope for initial implementation, with a target date of Feb. 1, 2014, for completion.

Committee members are asking commissioners to approve a parking agreement that outlines the city and the site owners’ responsibilities in regard to the use of private and public properties for overflow parking sites, and seek permission to meet with site owners and property representatives to negotiate site-specific agreements for each identified parking location.

The proposal identifies six potential overflow parking sites, and lists the capacity, days of use and availability for each.

The recommended sites include the Regions Bank parking lot at Sixth and Manatee avenues; AMI Elementary School, 48th Street and Gulf Drive; Church of Annunciation, 44th Street and Gulf Drive; the Island Branch Library, 56th Street and Marina Drive; the Hancock Bank, 5324 Gulf Drive; and Holmes Beach City Hall.

The proposed sites have a combined capacity of 235 parking spaces.

“The idea was to put as much scope and understanding into the document as possible,” Johnson said. He also pointed out that the interlocal parking agreement drafted by City Attorney Patricia Petruff would not be used for agreements pertaining to county facilities.

Audience member and Manatee County Commissioner Carol Whitmore told the committee the School Board would serve as the final authority regarding use of the elementary school lot, and county officials would have final say on use of the library parking lot, with liability coverage and responsibilities being a potential concern.

Acting as the committee’s newly appointed City Commission liaison, Commissioner Pat Morton participated in his first congestion meeting.

“It’s going to be very interesting,” he said of his new role.

When Morton asked if CrossPointe Fellowship was still being considered as an overflow parking site, Johnson said the intent was to focus on sites located closest to the Manatee Public Beach, with additional sites explored at a later date.

“Keeping it close limits the number of other pieces you might have to put in place to make it viable,” Johnson said.

“Let’s deal with the area around the beach, where the issues are minimalized and we have the potential for something successful happening,” he added.

The eight-point activation plan details each step of the implementation process and who is responsible for doing it.

The Island Congestion Committee would be responsible for negotiating specific parking agreements with the proposed sites, with the mayor and commission providing final approval of each agreement.

The police department would be responsible for directional signs and lot signage.

The public works department would oversee trash management.

The committee would implement a public awareness campaign and establish a criteria to measure the effectiveness of the program. The committee also will continue working on providing real time parking and congestion information via smart phone applications, electronic signs and local media outlets.

Public beach

Monti, Tokajer and Public Works Superintendent Tom O’Brien will continue working with Manatee County officials on a plan to reconfigure the Manatee Public Beach parking lot. This would create at least 50 additional parking spaces and perhaps more.

Potential changes to the beach parking lot might include one-way travel lanes, relocating county equipment to create more space and the implementation of a privately-run valet parking program.

Working outside the scope of the committee, Monti continues his discussions with county officials in regard to paid parking at Manatee Public Beach.

“I think it’s a lot, coming from concept to reality in hand,” Soustek said of the proposal, before expressing her view that the committee has presented a plan that should address at least some of the concerns related to congestion and parking.

After the meeting, Soustek presented the proposal to City Clerk Stacey Johnston hoping to have it included on the Dec. 10 commission agenda or the Dec. 12 commission work session agenda for commissioners to review.

City Center Committee adjourns for holidays

HOLMES BEACH –The November City Center Committee meeting gave committee members a chance to update City Commissioners Judy Titsworth and Marvin Grossman on the envisioning process that began when the advisory board first met in September.

The goal is to create a town center that features a pedestrian-friendly boardwalk along Marina Drive, near Keyes Marina, providing the heart of the city with a decorative facelift utilizing gas lamps, potted plants and other decorative features.

The proposed enhancements also strive to improve pedestrian, bicycle and vehicular safety in the area near the intersection of Gulf and Marina drives.

Titsworth attended earlier committee meetings, but had not been present of late due to schedule conflicts. Grossman stopped by the Nov. 19 meeting to learn more about planning process that will ultimately come before commissioners for approval.

The City Center efforts have been led by Mayor Carmel Monti, former city and county planner Jerry West, Public Works Superintendent Tom O’Brien, Police Chief Bill Tokajer and Human Resources Specialist Mary Buonagura.

Committee members updated Titsworth on their desire to alter the intersection at Marina and Gulf drives, where southbound Marina Drive vehicles can currently proceed straight through the intersection and into the S & S Plaza.

The committee has suggested that the current left lane be converted to a left turn only lane, with right turns still allowed in a right hand lane that in the future may or may not allow traffic to proceed straight on through to the plaza.

O’Brien and Tokajer have expressed safety concerns about the outdated intersection configuration that incorporates a business entrance in such close proximity to a traffic signal, something O’Brien says would not be permitted if built according to current design standards.

It was pointed out that a change of this nature would impact access to the plaza and might lead to additional congestion at the pending Mainsail entrance, and it was agreed that potentially-impacted property owners and the county’s traffic engineer would be consulted before any intersection decisions are made.

“We need to massage this whole area,” one committee member said, taking into account that 52nd Street, Holmes Avenue and 56th Street are being considered as bicycle routes meant to circumvent the busy Gulf Drive and Marina Drive intersection.

O’Brien reiterated his desire to place temporary portable planters along Marina Drive that alter traffic patterns and allow city officials to gauge how changes made to the traffic lanes impact traffic patterns and traffic flow. O’Brien said the planters could be moved or rearranged based on those observations.

West recommended rectangular-shaped wooden planter boxes, as opposed to standard oversized pots.

“Plain brown pots are going to look silly,” Titsworth said in agreement.

West also serves on the Parks and Beautification Advisory Board that has been asked to recommend the types of plants be best suited for this use and location.

Members discussed reducing the speed limit on Marina Drive from 35 mph to 25 mph in an effort to make Gulf Drive the main thoroughfare to and from the city of Anna Maria.

Buonagura suggested signs and colored pavement to direct pedestrians through the proposed City Center area.

“I think we should put a yellow brick road in – just follow the yellow brick road,” Monti said, only partially in jest, noting that green might be a better color choice, and acknowledging that other Florida cities have incorporated colored pavement, sidewalks and bike paths into their streetscaping projects.

O’Brien suggested textured pavement for portions of Marina Drive, serving as an additional traffic calming measure, similar to the sections of brick incorporated into Cortez Road just east of the bridge. He said the sound produced when traveling over a textured section of road serves as a subtle reminder to slow down.

Titsworth produced an old Tidemark planning document that dates back to 2005 and precedes the Mainsail plans. The document shows parallel parking spaces located along Marina Drive, in front of the marina, designed to provide charter fishing captains and their employees a place to park when loading supplies on and off their vessels.

There was some support for this idea, but concerns were expressed that four or five parking spaces would limit the area available for a pedestrian boardwalk. Committee members agreed to remain open-minded about both possibilities as the planning process moves forward.

As the meeting came to an end, West expressed his opinion that the planning process has been productive and is running ahead of schedule.

He said it would benefit the Parks and Beautification Advisory Board to have some time to consider City Center plant and planter options. He also noted that recommendations made by the Island Congestion Committee might impact City Center planning.

The committee members agreed with West’s suggestion to not meet during the December holidays and will reconvene in January.

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